August 31, 2010
The Strongest of the Week
Since 2003, Major League Baseball has recognized extraordinary short-term individual performances with its “Player of the Week” award. A reward for performance over a span of 5-7 games might not merit a prominent spot on most major leaguers’ mantelpieces, but I thought it might be interesting (YMMV) to find out what sort of production one has to muster to bring home the bacon—the bacon, in this case, being a Game Time watch, the cost of which would surely be prohibitive for a young man attempting to scrape by on a meager MLB salary otherwise. The award is graciously sponsored by Bank of America, which leads to a lot of awkwardly worded press release headlines like “Oakland’s Trevor Cahill named Bank of America Presents the American League Player of the Week.” There has to be a better way to say that.
Most Players of the Week are quite well-known, which stands to reason; the players who excel over the entirety of a season, thereby earning great fame and fortune, are also those more likely to have excelled over the component fractions of a season. Of course, it could also be the case that there’s some bias toward more recognizable names, or that Bank of America decrees that its praise not be lavished on anyone unbefitting of a titan of industry, but I’ll refrain from besmirching the good name of the Player-of-the-Week selection committee, should such a body exist. Of course, since we’re dealing with just a week’s worth of action, the odd Bengie Molina or David Freese who probably won’t be topping any seasonal leaderboards come October can still manage to earn a mention for his fleeting feats.
Here are 2010’s Players of the Week; only 10 pitchers have earned PotW honors this season, and the majority of them have had to throw no-hitters to get there (only Dallas Braden’s post-perfect loss spoiled their immaculate win-loss record), so the barrier for entry seems rather high for hurlers. As one might expect, players having especially good seasons, such as Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano, and Miguel Cabrera, have earned Game Time watches for both wrists; Bautista could wear a third on one ankle, if he so desired. Adrian Gonzalez has only one such accolade to his name this season, but might have 2 or 3 park-adjusted Player-of-the-Week wins, for what it’s worth. The Player-of-the-Week Award rewards hot streaks, but what if we strung all the streaks together to form a seasonal line? Here’s what each league’s Players of the Week have put together thus far:
Not too shabby. MLB also recognizes Players of the Month, though it seems that they’ve yet to corral a corporate sponsor (and the attendant trophy is less functional than a timepiece). Just for fun, here are the seasonal numbers for 2004’s NL Players of the Month, juxtaposed with Barry Bonds’ 2004 stats:
Granted, by virtue of the larger sample sizes involved, Player-of-the-Month performances are less extreme than Player-of-the-Week performances, and this ’04 PotM line includes a good deal of Bonds, who was himself a two-time winner. Still, in a season that was only his second- or third-best from an offensive standpoint, Barry Bonds was more productive, on a rate basis, than all of that season’s award-winning months strung together. That’s probably not the wildest stat you’ve ever heard about the performance of steroid-injected Bonds (note my care not to imply causation), but it should bring home the remarkable nature of his play.